The English poet, John Milton, in a poem entitled, "On His Blindness," says, "They also serve who only stand and wait." It is no stretch to think of the families of military service personnel standing, waiting, and serving. The service of military family members, their sacrifices and service on behalf of the nation however, is seldom seen and little acknowledged.
Having served a full military career as a U.S. Navy Chaplain, I have seen, served and cared for those who stand and wait for loved ones. I have seen spouses, children, parents, grand-parents, siblings and other family members standing on cold piers in the early morning hours to bid farewell to Sailors and Marines departing for a protracted deployment, and my own family has been among those waving teary-eyed goodbyes as our ship left port. The families of Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen have all stood and waited while their service members did the hard work of defending the nation and protecting the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
The stress and strain of the current operational tempo of our military service members has exacted a high cost from our military families. Multiple deployments into harm's way; regular cycles of changes in duty stations; and lack of outside employment opportunities have pushed military families to, and in some instances beyond, the breaking point.
The United States Army has created specific programs to deal with these stresses. Family Life Chaplains are given two years of study and 500 hours of counseling with families to train and equip them to help families deal constructively with the pressures of today's military life. Parenting skills, marriage enrichment and healthy family lifestyles are just some of the areas of emphasis provided under a $160 million program entitled, "Strong Bonds Program" sponsored by the Army Chief of Chaplains.
A current active duty military chaplain told me in a recent conversation, "There is nothing mysterious about caring for military families. All you have to do is love them." Another chaplain said, "Pastoral Care is not rocket science, but it is intentional." Military families are well cared for by military chaplains working side-by-side with health care professionals, social service experts, command sponsored Family Readiness Support Assistants and others.
The recently announced White House initiative, "Joining Forces," to honor military families and to provide much needed support in the areas of education, health, employment and business is a welcome expression of caring for military families and is being well received by them.
We would all do well to remember Milton's words as we think of our military families, "They also serve who only stand and wait."
This story is part of Military Families Week, an effort by HuffPost and AOL to put a spotlight on issues affecting America's families who serve. Find more at jobs.aol.com/militaryfamilies and aol.com.